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China’s ex-Foreign Minister Qin Gang removed over extramarital affair: What a WSJ report says

Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who was stripped of his title in July, had an extramarital affair while he was ambassador to the United States and had a child there, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Tuesday (September 19), citing people familiar with the matter.

Qin was cooperating with the investigation, which was now focused on whether the affair or other conduct by Qin had compromised China’s national security, the report added. The former minister hasn’t been seen in public since June 25.

What did the WSJ report say?

Before becoming the foreign minister, Qin served as the Chinese ambassador to the United States from July 2021 until January this year. Throughout his tenure as Beijing’s top envoy to Washington, he engaged in an extramarital affair with a woman, which led to the birth of a child in the US, according to the report.

Notably, the reason given to senior officials for Qin’s ouster was “lifestyle issues,” a common party euphemism for sexual misconduct, the report said.

Names of the woman and the child weren’t disclosed to the officials when they were briefed about the investigation against Qin, sources told WSJ. The newspaper couldn’t confirm the identities of the woman and the child.

“The affair disclosed by the party’s (Communist Party of China) investigation triggered his downfall partly because Qin’s US-born child could potentially compromise his ability to represent China’s interests in dealing with the Americans,” people familiar with the matter were quoted as saying in the report.

What does Qin’s dismissal signify?

Qin’s quick fall from grace underscores the increasingly tightening restrictions on senior Chinese officials who have significant financial or other connections overseas. Earlier this month, Gen Li Shangfu, China’s defence minister, was taken away by authorities for questioning. In July, the commander and political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force were both dismissed.

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There are two probable reasons behind the stringent regulations, according to the WSJ report. One, Beijing is concerned that officials “with significant overseas exposure could become a liability” in case the US and other Western nations decide to impose sanctions on China like they did against Russia after the country invaded Ukraine last year.

Two, since assuming power in 2013, President Xi Jinping has time and again clamped down on party officials who have been involved in corrupt practices, led a lavish lifestyle, or had mistresses.

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“You people, you either eat and drink yourselves into the grave, or die between the sheets,” Xi said at a meeting with senior officials earlier in his tenure, according to the WSJ report.

Who is Qin Gang?

Born in 1966, Qin rose through the ranks, starting with his appointment as a staff member of the Beijing Service Bureau for Diplomatic Missions in 1988. In his work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he held positions at the Chinese Embassy in Britain for many years. He was also appointed as a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson for two terms.

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When he was made the foreign minister in 2023, barely two years after his appointment as the ambassador to the US, many analysts attributed his proximity to President Xi as the reason behind his quick rise. The WSJ report termed it “an unusually fast promotion” as the Chinese system traditionally has “valued experience in addition to political connections.”

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